It’s been awhile; yes I’ve been slacking, so let’s get right down to business hitting the highlights and lowlights of the Pacific Northwest sports scene.
The Sounders FC had put together a run of ties that kept dropping them slowly down the standings. A big loss 2-0 against Chivas USA hurt badly but the team put that behind them to dominate San Jose 2-1. Despite giving up the first goal to DC United last night, Seattle roared back to take a 3-2 lead late into the match. Coach Sigi Schmid slowly removed his strikers Montero, Ljungberg, and Jaqua to load up the midfield and defense for the waning minutes. That backfired when Tyrone Marshall, the veteran leader of the backline who has been Kasey Keller’s right hand man, headed the ball past Keller on a cross for an own goal that gave DC United a tie and a point that frankly, they didn’t deserve.
While the Sounders have been losing points, they have been collecting red cards at an alarming rate. The team leads the MLS in red cards with five in 14 games played, many for what seem like very thin circumstances. Maybe it’s because I watch a lot of European soccer, but I get confused with the MLS refs on how they decide on giving a card. In Europe, the refs do a lot more verbal cautioning during the match, leaving the yellow card as a final warning. A red card is rare and only for the most grievous of fouls. Seattle has more red cards this season than Arsenal (3 in 38 matches) had all of last year. In comparison, Arsenal had a total of 95 yellow cards in 38 matches. Seattle currently has 31 yellows in 14.
Over in the American Football land, Seattle ended minicamp on a high note. No one was injured, Matt Hasselbeck and TJ Houshmandzadeh looked good as a tandem, and all the players commented on how tough it is to learn a new system after having the old one in place for so long. New head coach Jim Mora broke tradition by allowing the players to keep their playbooks instead of turning them in as normal when checking out of camp. That’s quite a change from the normal paranoia that runs rampant in the NFL with playbooks. If nothing else, it means that no one can blame the new system if the Seahawks stumble out of the gate.
So the Lakers won the NBA Championship. Congratulations to them. I set a new personal record by watching exactly zero minutes of the NBA this year. It was tough for me, I had to work hard at it but I suffered through the pain and made my goal. Yes, I am still raw about the treatment Seattle got from the league by ripping out the Sonics, but that’s not the only reason. This month, Seattle should have gotten to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the Sonics winning the NBA Championship. We should have spent the year reminiscing about Jack Sikma, Downtown Freddie Brown, Slick Watts, Lonnie Shelton, Paul Silas, DJ Dennis Johnson, JJ John Johnson, and Lenny Wilkins beating the Washington Bullets with hard work and teamwork. We should have been hearing stories about how Paul Silas would set a pick and then help you up while Lonnie Shelton would set a pick and then dare you to get up.
1979 was the year of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Supersonics taking the “We Are Family” song to heart as a philosophy and for one brief moment, Seattle was the heart of the basketball world. It’s interesting that there are no players on that roster in the Hall of Fame, the only NBA champions to be able to claim that distinction. Instead of the celebrations and remembrance, Seattleites get to hear about how the economy is killing the bill required to renovate Key Arena thus driving the final nail in the NBA coffin in Seattle and effectively letting Clay Bennett off the hook for the rest of the money he promised when he left. While I miss the Sonics, I still have the bitter taste in my mouth from the last chapter of the NBA in Seattle and I don’t miss them in the least.
At least we still have the Storm, who has opened the season well, going 3-2 so far. Lauren Jackson has proven yet again that she is the backbone of this team by averaging 22.6 points per game, good for second in the WNBA. Sue Bird leads the league in assists with 6.6 per game. As long as the Storm keep those two players happy and healthy, they will be a force in the WNBA.
The Mariners, to change the subject from basketball, lead the American League in pitching with a 3.67 ERA. On the other hand, they are 22nd in team batting average at .254 and 28th in fielding percentage at .978. Put that all together and you have a team that is pitching well, hitting mediocre and fielding poorly. Not a great combination and sure to get worse as the team has now put Erik Bedard on the DL with shoulder problems. In a somewhat perplexing, to me anyway, move, the team has elected to start Brandon Marrow instead of sending him down to get a couple of starts and bringing up a starting pitcher from Triple-A.
The Mariners are stuck right now in no man’s land for the trading deadline. They are playing .500 ball and could conceivably get better with a timely acquisition of a big bat. The problem is that the team knew this was a rebuilding year and had hopes of getting some playing time for their younger players. If they trade away some of the youth for a bat, then they are prolonging the inevitable rebuild. If they give up some of the pitching, like Jarrod Washburn, for youth, they may be pulling the plug on a chance to make the post season. In the AL West, Anaheim has slowly gotten better while Texas has used their bats and Kevin Millwood’s arm to get into first place. All bets are that the Texas bats cool off and Kevin Millwood remembers he’s Kevin Millwood and not Cy Young very soon. It will be interesting to see which way GM Jack Zduriencik leans on this.
On a smaller but more personal level for me, my rugby team, the Budd Bay Buffalo, took top honors in the 3rd division of the Pacific Northwest Rugby Football Union, earning a trip to Austin Texas to play in the national tournament. Budd Bay lost their first match against Beaumont, the number one team of southern California, 27-15. On the second day, Budd Bay took on Phoenix and went down 31-5 so it was an 0-for-2 trip but one that the boys can be proud of nonetheless. I can remember playing matches the first couple of years of the club’s existence using players from the other team because we didn’t have enough of our own show up. To take top honors for the division shows how far the fellows have come and I couldn’t be prouder of them. I have always worn my Budd Bay jacket and jersey with pride before but now it means even more to me.
And with that note, leaving out the obvious Ryan Leaf and WSU Cougar painkiller jokes, we are just about all caught up with just about everything in the Pacific Northwest since I last posted.